Soderling ends Federer’s run
The loss opens the door for Rafael Nadal to regain the world number-one ranking from the Swiss top seed and prevent Federer—momentarily—from overtaking Pete Sampras for the most weeks spent atop the ATP standings.
Nadal, winner of four of the last five Paris editions, will have to claim the title Sunday to dethrone Federer, who hammered Soderling in the 2009 Roland Garros final after the Swede had knocked out Nadal in the fourth round.
“He played really well for almost an entire match, really,” said Federer. “I’m not blaming the conditions or anything, but I think they were in his favor towards the end.
“I guess I’m most disappointed that I can’t defend my title here. I really felt like my tennis was good enough to come here and do it again, but that was not the case today. It’s more the disappointment in having maybe not delivered my very best performance today, conditions and opponents
didn’t allow me to.”
Soderling, one of the biggest hitters in the game, beat Federer for the first time after a dozen career defeats, including matches in four of the last five Grand Slams.
“I think I played a better match today than last year’s finals. As I said, it’s difficult playing in your first Grand Slam final, no doubt,” said the winner.
“Even though I lost so many times against him, I always have a chance to win. I came close a couple of times before, and I really feel like one or two times I actually been a little bit unlucky. With a little bit of luck I could have won before. Now I’m here, finally, with a win, and it’s great.”
The match was interrupted by rain at 5-5 in the second set, with the players off court for an hour and a quarter.
When they returned, Federer was never again able to get on top of his determined rival.
Federer earned a break in the second game of the fourth set only to lose it a game later on a wide return. Federer showed a flicker as he won a long seventh game with five deuces and two aces.
But Soderling dug in with another break in the ninth game to leave himself serving for the match. He advanced to the final four on a first match point in the evening gloom as Federer’s return sailed long.
“I really played well in the tough conditions,” Soderling said.
“It was great to finally beat Roger in a tough match and at this big venue.”
The defeat was the earliest for Federer in Paris since going out in the 2003 third round.
Coming into the match, Soderling had won just two sets against Federer in their one-way series, losing 28 of the first 30 played.
The winner will next face Czech Tomas Berdych, who comfortably defeated Russian Mikhail Youzhny, 6-3, 6-1, 6-2.
In the women’s draw, Italian Francesca Schiavone fell to the ground and planted a kiss on the clay after reaching her first Grand Slam semifinal after she upset third seed Caroline Wozniacki, 6-2, 6-3.
The three-time quarterfinalist at the majors will try to become the first Italian woman in a Grand Slam final as she faces fifth seed Elena Dementieva, who rallied to beat Russian compatriot Nadia Petrova, 2-6, 6-2, 6-0.
At 19, Wozniacki was the youngest player remaining in the draw while Schiavone was the oldest at 29. The Italian broke on six of her eight chances in the straightforward victory.
Schiavone was playing her second quarterfinal at Roland Garros, nine years after her first as she ran her record over Wozniacki to 2- 0.